Ascribing consciousness to artificial intelligence: human-AI interaction and its carry-over effects on human-human interaction

Rose E. Guingrich, Michael S.A. Graziano

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review


The question of whether artificial intelligence (AI) can be considered conscious and therefore should be evaluated through a moral lens has surfaced in recent years. In this paper, we argue that whether AI is conscious is less of a concern than the fact that AI can be considered conscious by users during human-AI interaction, because this ascription of consciousness can lead to carry-over effects on human-human interaction. When AI is viewed as conscious like a human, then how people treat AI appears to carry over into how they treat other people due to activating schemas that are congruent to those activated during interactions with humans. In light of this potential, we might consider regulating how we treat AI, or how we build AI to evoke certain kinds of treatment from users, but not because AI is inherently sentient. This argument focuses on humanlike, social actor AI such as chatbots, digital voice assistants, and social robots. In the first part of the paper, we provide evidence for carry-over effects between perceptions of AI consciousness and behavior toward humans through literature on human-computer interaction, human-AI interaction, and the psychology of artificial agents. In the second part of the paper, we detail how the mechanism of schema activation can allow us to test consciousness perception as a driver of carry-over effects between human-AI interaction and human-human interaction. In essence, perceiving AI as conscious like a human, thereby activating congruent mind schemas during interaction, is a driver for behaviors and perceptions of AI that can carry over into how we treat humans. Therefore, the fact that people can ascribe humanlike consciousness to AI is worth considering, and moral protection for AI is also worth considering, regardless of AI’s inherent conscious or moral status.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Article number1322781
JournalFrontiers in Psychology
StatePublished - 2024

All Science Journal Classification (ASJC) codes

  • General Psychology


  • artificial intelligence
  • chatbots
  • consciousness
  • human-AI interaction
  • schemas
  • theory of mind


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